Did you know that the extreme southeast of Russia is the only region of this immense country that was not affected by the last Ice Age, thus conserving a unique biodiversity in which amazing mammals coexist, such as the Himalayan bear and the Amur leopard? The latter has been on the brink of extinction for more than half a century, so that, in the 60s, there were barely 30 individuals of this species left in the wild, considering the recovery of its population almost impossible. Currently, there are many recovery and conservation projects for this leopard subspecies, whose population now has 90 adult individuals (including 40 females of reproductive age) and at least 21 offspring, thus ensuring that the population can continue to grow. in the next years.
Amur leopard: characteristics
The Amur leopard is considered the rarest and most unknown leopard subspecies. Commonly called a “spotted ghost” by local populations in the Siberian forests in which it inhabits, the Amur leopard has a nocturnal way of life and is quite elusive, making it difficult to observe specimens of the species in their natural habitat. Next we will see in detail what are the characteristics of the Amur leopard , a rather elusive and unknown feline.
Physical characteristics of the Amur leopard
The fur of the Amur leopard is considerably longer compared to that of the other subspecies of leopards that exist, being approximately 2.5 cm in length in summer and up to 7 cm in winter, thus protecting it from cold and harsh conditions. climatic conditions of the Siberian taiga forests. This characteristic fur is orange-brown in color, and its spots are also larger and more widely separated from each other compared to those of other leopards.
Where is the Amur leopard found – habitat
The Sijote-Alin Reserve (Siberia) is the main natural habitat region for the Amur leopard. This is a fragile ecosystem of the amazing Russian Pacific taiga, located on the border between Russia and China. Some specimens have also been identified in forests located in neighboring North Korea.
However, most of the Amur leopard individuals that survive today are living in artificial ecosystems of zoos in Europe and the United States, with the aim of protecting and guaranteeing the reproduction and survival of this species.
What does the Amur leopard eat
Like its closest feline relatives, the Amur leopard is a large carnivorous predator. Their diet mainly includes other mammals with which they share their natural habitat in distant Siberia, although they sometimes also hunt birds and other smaller animals.
How the Amur leopard reproduces
Reproduction is sexual. Generally, each female has its own reproductive territory within its natural habitat, since they are quite territorial felines. Thus, after having offspring, the male Amur leopard must change areas and seek new territories, while the females, on the other hand, continue to create new reproductive nuclei.
Why the Amur leopard is in danger of extinction – the causes
According to the IUCN, the Amur leopard is critically endangered . Among the main causes of its worrying state of conservation are:
Their inbreeding, that is, the geographic and genetic limitation that characterizes the interbreeding between individuals of the isolated population of Amur leopards, places them on the brink of total extinction, since there are hardly any reproductively active individuals living nearby.
Degradation and fragmentation of their natural habitat
If the areas inhabited by the species are not protected through the creation of national parks and conservation areas, the habitat of these leopards is severely fragmented, with the consequent degradation of contact between individuals and their survival. Here you can learn more about the Destruction of the environment and habitat, its causes and consequences .
Intentional forest fires, logging and poaching pose the main human risks faced by the Amur leopard on a daily basis. Unfortunately, the fur trade has drastically reduced the number of individuals of the species, as poachers kill them for the sale of the animal’s skin and meat.
Both individually and collectively (from governments and organizations), it is necessary to bet on effective measures that guarantee the welfare of the species. Let’s see some options and tips on how to help the Amur leopard in the following list:
- Creation of natural parks to recover the species, such as the “Land of the Leopard” park (near Vladivostok, and the border with China).
- Support from public organizations and large companies to those environmental organizations that fight for the conservation of the species, such as the emblematic WWF Russia and Leopards of the Far East (LEO).
- Cooperation programs between neighboring countries, since animals do not understand borders and constantly cross from one country to another.
- Promote breeding programs and reintroduction of specimens in artificial ecosystems that involve the captivity of leopards but guarantee their well-being and fight to maintain the survival of the population.
- Participate in activities such as ecotourism and environmental education, thus learning to protect nature and wild species in the region, including the Amur leopard.